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Stanford Oral History Collections

Street, Robert L.

purl.stanford.edu/vh991gd0452
Title:
Street, Robert L.
Author:
Street, Robert L. and Richard, Boyd.
Corporate Author:
Stanford Historical Society.
Description:
This oral history interview with Robert Street begins with his description of how three things came together to place him on his career path at Stanford: excellent high school (Beverly Hills), undergraduate degree program at Stanford, and his Navy training (both ROTC and active duty). He was “in the right place at the right time” to be appointed assistant executive head of the civil engineering department in 1962 – the beginning of a dual path of both academic and administrative careers. He became department chair in 1972. Street talks about his academic and administrative experiences throughout the interview, often giving credit to the management and leadership skills he acquired in the Navy. He talks about teaching elementary fluid mechanics and statics. He also describes the changes in the campus, from being surrounded by farms when he arrived to being surrounded by what is now known as Silicon Valley today, from being a “very good” private school to a “much stronger technical university.” He discusses how Stanford engineering graduates are distinct from those of other schools as they tend towards policy or leadership or management roles as opposed to technical engineering roles. He mentions his fellowships and sabbaticals and also his efforts to maintain his research pursuits along with his management and administrative responsibilities. Street traces the evolution of the computer from IBM punched cards to PCs and Apples (including negotiations with Steve Jobs) to current computer technology. He talks about the evolution of information systems and his responsibilities as the Vice President for Information Resources (later as Vice Provost and Dean of Libraries and Information Resources). He oversees various information systems such as LOTS and SPIRES, as well as various computer languages such as ALGOL and FORTRAN. He describes Stanford’s relationships with some Silicon Valley companies such as Sun and Cisco, as well as his relationships with many people including Ralph Goren, Bill Yundt and Michael Carter. Street eventually returned from administrative duties to teaching and he describes the significant changes in teaching methodologies that had taken place due to changes in technology. He also describes the change from the “just do it” management approach of earlier years to the consensus styles of later years. He details his experience with information systems and his emphasis on protecting the acquisitions budgets of the libraries. Street has a high regard for the quality of students at Stanford, describing them as “superb on every level” and giving numerous examples. The interview concludes with a discussion of his retirement in 2004, his ongoing interests and contacts, and his wife and family.
Topic:
Robert Street, Stanford Historical Society, Oral histories, Interviews, Engineering, Stanford University. School of Engineering, Fluid mechanics, Applied mathematics, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, ROTC, US Navy, LOTS, and SPIRES
Imprint:
June 29, 2013
Collection:
Stanford Historical Society Oral History Program interviews, 1999-2012